Wrapping a blanket around your shoulders can feel like one giant hug - with the right blanket, that is.  If it's soft, warm and cozy that is a good start but blankets with the right stretch, weigt and drape can actually be more than comforting and even beneficial to your health by actually triggering your body's stress release hormone.  ults.

How Does That Work? 

When you are feeling stressed, your heart beats too quickly.  Gentle pressure on your body provided by the right type of blanket can help calm you by activating your parasympathetic nervous system, telling your body to lower it's heart rate.  

A hug blanket uses “pressure therapy”, a calm-inducing amount of pressure on your entire body, similar to a baby being swaddled or a person being hugged. The right features, size and weight of a blanket depend on a person's individual needs.

CONDITIONS HUG BLANKETS CAN HELP ADULTS AND CHILDREN WITH:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Sleep Disorders
  3. ADHD
  4. Autism

Anxiety (affects over 40 million adults in the US annually)

Every person experiences some form of anxiety at some point in their lives.  It's that feeling of unease and worry, usually about something in the future.  Usually about something not entirely within your control. It can cause your heart rate and breathing to get faster, which is a result of your body preparing to take on the added stress.  

Whether your anxiety is occasional or constant, your autonomic nervous system, which controls basic bodily functions such as breathing, digestion, sweating and shivering, prepares your body for stress or rest.  Another more common name for this is your flight or fight response. 

The pressure of a weighted blanket or hug blanket can put your autonomic nervous system into “rest” mode by telling your body to release the hormone acetylcholine, telling your body to decrease it's heart rate and/or breathing.  This can provide an overall sense of calm in the body.  

Sleep Disorders (affects 50-70 million adults in the US annually)

If you find yourself tossing and turning in bed every once in a while, you are not alone. Over 20 million Americans have occasional trouble falling asleep, and over 40 million people in the US have long-term, chronic sleep disorders.

“Stress and anxiety can cause a sleep disorder to begin with, or they can make existing problems worse. However, you don’t need to have a disorder for stress and anxiety to affect your sleep. Anxiety about the next day’s test or presentation can keep you up at night” explained Martin L. Levinson, MD, FACP, FCCP, physician at Penn Sleep Center Cherry Hill.

Triggering your parasympathetic nervous system with the gentle pressure techique can prepare your body for rest by calming your heart rate and breathing; hopefully enough to help your body calm down enough to get the sleep it needs to wake up feeling refreshed. 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (affects nearly 1 in 10 children in the US)

“Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have a harder time with self-control, especially when it comes to paying attention and sitting still. This can cause problems at school or at home, and it can impact their learning, as well as their relationships with friends and family,” said Dr. Levinson.

By activating the sense of touch, it is possible for hug blankets to sometimes keep children from becoming distracted by other sensory stimuli, such as sounds coming from their various surroundings. Keeping focus may help improve attention, remain on task, stay in their seats, and fidget less. If your child does not want to use a hug or weighted blanket in class, you a weighted vest is another option, which works similarly.

Autism (affects around 1 in 60 children in the US)

Dr. Levinson explained that “when someone has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), social interaction can be hard for them. This can lead to anxiety and stress, as well as make it harder to function in school, the workplace, and in public situations.”

Individuals with ASD may feel like sensory stimulations around them are too intense.  Noise and touch are common intense stimuli which can makeactivities like playing, working, and socializing more challenging. The pressure from the gentle pressure technique may help provide some comfort from feeling over-stimulated and allow relaxation.

 

 

 

Citations:

Penn Medicine. "4 Ways Weighted Blankets Can Actually Help You."Heath and Wellness, March 24, 2022. https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2022/march/weighted-blankets. Accessed May 15, 2024. 

 

Kimberly Cannon